Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. The reason I am doing this post today, instead of tomorrow, is so that I could announce that the War Museum in Ottawa is offering a live webcast of the ceremony via its WarMuseum.ca webpage.
If you don’t recognize “Remembrance Day,” perhaps you know it as Poppy Day or Armistice Day. We know it celebrates and remembers the brave soldiers who served and died for us. But the date itself has another meaning: It’s observed on 11 November to mark the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. The war formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”
As per Wikipedia: “The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields“. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.”
The first chapter of In Flanders Fields, and Other Poems , a 1919 collection of McCrae’s works, gives the text of the poem as follows:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae is, of course, best known for the above poem. He also was a physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I, and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium. It is repeated by many that fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially unsatisfied with his work, discarded it. One thing is true is that it was first published in the London-based magazine Punch on December 8, 1915. There’s a wonderful video about this at Historica Canada, part of Heritage Minutes.